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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Just win baby—so the healing can begin.

.02¢ > turn > mine. Will he lose sponsorship? Do brands care? Points well-covered in Ad Age or on this week’s Beancast. But a few other things about Tigermania come together in one big, intertwined mess. It’s not simply a black and white issue.

One underlying idea here is that people expect perfection of athletes. It’s not that they’re not human; that topic gets covered off in the athlete who admits when they had a bad performance on the field and need to get back up again.

Never give up and all that, right?

I mean utter perfection both on and off the field. He was a machine, raised from an early age to dominate. Train hard—play harder. A driving father figure behind him without becoming the stage dad Venus and Serena Williams had to deal with.

You looked at Tiger on the course like he was Mike Tyson in the ring. The only one Tiger had to worry about beating was himself.

Which leads to this: As long as you win, what else matters?

Most recently, Vick got a second chance because he could still play. But I watch this saga unfold and wonder if Tiger caved to temptation, who’s next to fall?

Will Peyton Manning be caught in a motel room with a goat?*

Brands choose athletes and celebrities because of the wholesome image they display. Well, I'm just wondering, winning record aside, what does it takes for sponsors to say we’ve had enough?

In this case, being human would’ve included finding out Tiger cheated—once. You could live with that as a fan I suppose, even if you didn’t personally identify with the scenario of cheating. If you could, then it becomes glass houses > stone throwing.

But, add in 10 other women and tales of Ambien sex? I can’t see sponsors standing by him when they’ve walked from others over arguebaly less-controversial reasons. (See > Michael Phelps.)

Then there’s the notion of healing.

Listening to sports talk radio in NYC yesterday and they brought up the idea that if after you’ve “transgressed” and just act contrite, you can now begin to heal. ESPN radio even supported the idea that this closure slash healing takes place on the green. Well, athletes have always turned to the field of play to forget about off the field issues; that’s not a new thing.

(Tiger hasn’t exactly done poorly either this year in that regard.)

But it’s awesome how athletes and celebrities can move on so quickly after years of transgression. Why is it about them and not the ones who got hurt though? Putting the con in contrite for a second:

Isn’t it more a case of truly sorry, or sorry you got caught?

What about factoring in the integrity of the game? Not that Tiger did anything to harm golf, but does the timeliness of any apology matter if you’ve hurt the integrity or done something that directly affects the game?

I look at Pete Rose, Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez for this one. All three “won” on the field even though all did things directly affecting the game at large. In Rose’s case, he didn’t directly affect his own performance, rather the game at large. Alex did with his steroid use. McGwire, while not using something banned at the time, bent the rules.

Take that one step further: What if the Yankess don’t win the World Series?

Then all the talk turns to A-Rod’s press conference earlier this year as fans would villify him even more for any post-season troubles. Credit though to Tiger for at least not pulling A-Rod’s excuse.

Now though, A-Rod can put this behind him and heal. “But what about cheating with Madonna?”**

You could also argue that parts of the media are just as complacent in maintaining the facade of the perfect athlete. As long as you win, everything’s cool. But should it be?

I felt that way after catching a segment on the Fan where Mike Francesca said that apparently a prominent sports magazine knew for two years about Tiger and shelved the story, all in exchange for Woods appearing exclusively on their cover. But last week after the initial story broke, Francesca also said we shouldn’t rush to judgement.

How can you have it both ways though. Sports media has their collective ear closer to the ground than the rest of us about what goes on in that world. If one magazine knew, it must stand to reason that a lot of other people in the media had to know too.

(Sorry, but when your wife runs out in the middle of the night with a golf club aimed at your car window, she’s not there to help change a tire.)

Saying that’s true though, at what point do you have a right to know about an athlete or celebrity? Are they supposed to be accessible to you 24/7?

I’d say no if all they agree to is the three hours you pay for when attending a game (or the two when you rent an actor’s latest movie).

But when brands sign them to shill products and act like role models with morals clauses, the hypocrisy of the situation Tiger finds himself in says, yes, you do have a right to know. The athlete may pay a price in terms of lost endorsements, but in effect, you were betrayed by a brand promise.

Ultimately, people will have to decide what their personal limit is for supporting or forgiving athletes and celebrities because it’s not if, but when the next PR crisis arises. Is drug use okay? Cheating? Violence?

What if they can help bring your team a championship?

*I kid.

**See > “It’s okay because he won” excuse.


Anonymous said...

Peyton and a goat? I've often wondered about him. His geeky sweetness is too good to be true. After he retires from his amazing career, he'll probably come out and say he's gay.

HighJive said...

Manning isn't accommodating the groupies so he must be gay?

Anyway, here's my take:

mtlb said...

@hj Good piece btw. I think ADChick is joking because I was going to say Manning doesn’t need to screw around, but then, Tiger had a hot wife too.